What Is a Law Guardian?
In deciding all divorce issues affecting your children, the family court applies a single, all-important standard: “the best interests of the child.” But how does the court know what is in your child’s best interest? In tough custody battles, parents often have conflicting notions of what’s best for their child. They present the court with very different impressions of who the child is, what interests and talents the child has, and the child’s physical and emotional needs. Faced with competing versions of the truth, the court may appoint a law guardian, an attorney to represent the child.
Appointment of a law guardian is meant to protect the interests of a child who is a subject of the dispute between the parents, but not a party to the divorce action. As such, the law guardian acts as an advisor to and advocate for the child. For this reason, courts generally only appoint law guardians in custody actions where it is appropriate to ask the child’s preference.
The law guardian is charged with assessing whether the child has an impairment that prevents him or her from making knowledgeable, voluntary and considered judgments. If in the law guardian’s opinion the child is unimpaired, the law guardian will report the child’s stated preferences. The law guardian is not a witness but may call witnesses and cross-examine witnesses. The law guardian does not present a written report to the court, but should present relevant evidence to the court that might otherwise not be presented.
Parents must always remember that the law guardian is not their lawyer, so any communications are not considered confidential. Any statements a parent makes to the law guardian can be used against them in the custody dispute.
At Bryan L. Salamone & Associates, P.C., our attorneys work closely with court-appointed law guardians to protect our clients’ parental rights and reach a resolution that truly reflects the best interests of the child.